January 15, 2013
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks about Facebook Graph Search. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks about Facebook Graph Search. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)

Facebook announced on Tuesday a new development called “Graph Search.” It will allow you to perform “social searches” within Facebook’s massive stockpile of data on your friends and networks. For instance, you can find out which pictures you like, or which of your friends like to go bicycling. You could not possibly do this by asking them.

And actually, that much I understand. That is a foundational premise of online life. The Internet is where you go to pose the questions that you do not want to ask your friends, family members or that counselor lady at your high school who wears beaded necklaces and follows you through the corridors insisting that she is “ready to relate.” The Internet is the place where you get all the information you possibly can about things and people without actually talking to them.

And Facebook is the king of this kind of interaction. Want to know things about your friends, acquaintances and Anthony Weiner that they did not bother to tell you? Bring up the blue search box! But first, make certain that it is not the status update box in disguise, or you will have a lot of explaining to do.

I have to say, as Facebook developments go, this is not as bad as I was expecting. Usually Facebook announcements fall along one of two lines: 1) we have redesigned the site in a way that nobody likes, or 2) we have just done something unalterable and terrible to your privacy settings. I am paraphrasing slightly.

Mark Zuckerberg claims the new search is “privacy aware” which is an interesting turn of phrase that does little to reassure me. I am Honey Boo Boo Aware.

But hurray for Social Search. Facebook seems to believe this is a profitable direction for expansion, which I suspect is true, given the dwindling but still vigorous supply of elder investors who think that the addition of the word “social” to anything will produce the 2008 election and billions of dollars.

Besides, I’m excited to learn which of my friends like bicycling!

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.